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Phone Booth

"Okay, suicide booth, give me your best shot. Electrocution, please, side order of poison... Helloooo? Kill me, you stupid machine! What the... 'local calls fifty cents'!? It's a street corner telephone parlor! Oh, what kind of horrible, suicide-free time is this?"
Bender, Futurama: Bender's Big Score

A Phone Booth (or phone box, at it's more commonly known in the UK) is a tiny closet, often outdoors and usually with one or more glass-paned walls, designed to contain a Pay Phone. Even before cell phones took over, they were being replaced by the more space-efficient and wheelchair-accessible standalone pay phones, and in the U.S. they've almost completely disappeared, although the booths themselves are seeing a resurgence in upscale theaters and restaurants to reduce public cell phone chatter.

In Britain, there are still a fair few phone boxes around (Maybe a certain show keeps them in style?), although the traditional Red Telephone Box is an increasingly rare sight outside of central London, where many have been preserved - perhaps to enable Tourists to take a photograph proving that they really are in London.

In addition to the tropes associated with the Pay Phone, there are a number associated with the Phone Booth itself.

  • In fiction the Phone Booth has often been used as a changing room, most notably by Superman. In Real Life the aforementioned glass-paned walls would make this problematic. (In the early days of Superman, phone booths usually only had glass in the door — and frosted glass, at that.)
    • It's also justified because Superman's alter-ego is a reporter. In just about every movie of the time, a reporter on the scene would duck into a nearby phone booth and call the editor or someone else at the paper's HQ. So, people would see Clark Kent jump into a booth and assume he's making a call, when he's actually changing into Superman.
  • In an earlier era, a popular pastime among the young was to see how many folks could be simultaneously fit in a Phone Booth. This would seem to be dangerous due to the glass-paned walls. In modern days, you will still occasionally see people trying this with port-o-johns.
    • A photo shoot in cycle five of America's Next Top Model had a photo shoot in which all six remaining girls had to stand in a single phone booth wearing only galoshes and newspapers (and, ostensibly, underwear).
  • A secret door or even elevator might be disguised as a phone booth, for example in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. The glass-paned walls might be troublesome for the secrecy here.
    • Spoofed in the very last seconds of the theme sequence of Get Smart.
  • A common horror movie trope is for the victim to be trapped by an assailant in a Phone Booth. Did we mention the glass-paned walls?
  • And of course, phone booths are an ideal place for murders, as the booth's close quarters make for little room to dodge and no place to run. Plus, the glass-paned walls make it easier for the shooter to aim.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Hughes is murdered in a phone booth by Envy, as he tries to share his discovery that Homunculi have infiltrated the military.
  • Rosette uses a payphone in Chrono Crusade. Since it's set in The Roaring Twenties, this isn't too odd...except that Chrono and Rosette actually have some sort of special phone on their ammo box that works somewhat like a modern-day cellphone, and it's never explained why she didn't use that phone in the first place.
  • In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Keiichi commits suicide in a phone booth while under the effects of Hinamizawa syndrome.
  • In the first part of 5 Centimeters per Second, which takes place in the early '90s, Akari calls Takaki from a phone booth.

Comic Books
  • Superman has actually lampshaded the disappearance of traditional phone booths in at least one incident.
    • In the movie (the 1978 one) Christopher Reeve looks for a phone booth to change into Superman, but he finds a standalone pay phone instead. He winds up using revolving doors instead (you have to see it to understand).
    • Actually (and Common Knowledge to the contrary), Supes has hardly ever used a phone booth for this purpose in the actual comics. Superman's use of the phone booths most famously, (and iconicly) comes from an old radio show.
  • In the new Dial H series, the Hero Dial is actually connected to a disused phone booth, meaning Nelson has to transform in a phone booth.

Film
  • Lola Rennt has a long scene inside of a phone booth.
  • The movie Phone Booth had its somewhat Jerkass main character trapped in a Phone Booth by a sniper.
  • Alfred Hitchcock's film The Birds features a memorably bloody scene where the heroine takes shelter in a phone booth, which is then battered by kamikaze seagulls. (Those glass walls again...)
    • Mel Brooks' film High Anxiety, being a spoof of suspense films like The Birds, includes a phone booth scene as a Homage. Speaking of glass walls, The Dragon attempts to kill the hero while the hero is making a phone call and winds up impaled on a glass shard from the booth.
  • The Time Machine in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is in the form of a Phone Booth, perhaps as a nod to Doctor Who.
    • Actually, they wanted to go with a old step van, but didnt want to seem like they were ripping off the Delorian Back to the Future, so they went with a phone booth. Whoops.
    • However, it's not Bigger on the Inside, so things get a little tight with all the historical figures.
  • Terri gets trapped in the Phone Booth while using the Pay Phone to call for help in Jumpin Jack Flash.
  • In Duel, Mann just escapes from one before the semi plows into it.
  • The Spanish short film La Cabina concerns a man becoming stuck in a phone box. Played for laughs at the beginning. At the end ... not so much.
  • Apparently, the phone booth from Local Hero is the one that gets the most phone calls per year in the UK. The location didn't actually have a phone booth when the film was made, but one was later installed as a tourist attraction.
  • The Matrix ended its opening sequence with Trinity narrowly escaping through one of these.
  • In Dumb and Dumber, one of the mooks makes a long phone call to the villain, but an impatient man outside demands him to get off the phone only to be punched through the glass and knocked out.
  • Toward the end of The President's Analyst, Dr. Schaefer gets stuck in one - he waves down a truck, but instead of freeing him they pull up the whole booth, with him trapped inside, replace it with an empty one, and spirit him away to the headquarters of The Phone Company. Earlier on, one of their booths similarly trapped a pursuing Chinese agent to keep him from getting abducted by them.
  • The Sting featured a couple indoor phone booths. The first was occupied by an older woman when Johnny needed to call Luther. He pulled her out to make the call. Later at the same booth, Lt Snyder catches Johnny there. Almost. The second one was the one the calls came in on to Lonnigan to tell him what horse to bet on.
  • Phone booths were already on the outs in the late '70s as seen in the first Superman movie - Clark Kent is desperately looking for a place to change, and stops at a pay phone with a little head-sized enclosure before moving on.
  • Help! - the Eastern thugs pursuing The Beatles call them in Scotland Yard from a phone booth across the street - several of them are jammed inside playing instruments as the leader hypnotically chants "Go-o-o to the window!...Go-o-o to the window!"

Literature
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix does the elevator-disguised-as-a-phone-booth shtick. It's used as the visitor's entrance to the Ministry of Magic.
    • And then they cram six people into it, of course.
    Harry: Whoever's closest to the receiver, dial six two four four two! (on the phone buttons, this spells MAGIC)

Live-Action TV
  • One episode of America's Next Top Model had the girls do a photo shoot in a phone booth. Naked. With six girls inside.
  • The "Police Call Box" disguise of the TARDIS in Doctor Who is essentially a Phone Booth skin. The disappearance of Police Call Boxes from the natural environment has made this something of a Trope Breaker in recent years, especially since fans presumably would not take kindly to having the TARDIS "unstuck" from its Call Box form. For obvious reasons, the TARDIS "Phone Booth" lacks glass-paned windows.
    • This has actually been lampshaded a few times in the new series. Given a Hand Wave by the mention of a device that makes people ignore it- that and the Doctor's a time traveller. It's not like it's fit in just about anywhere he's parked it since his first trip to Earth.
    • The 6th Doctor did try and fix the Chameleon Circuit at one point, but the results were equally if not more conspicuous; at one point it turned into a fairground organ. He seems to have given up and put it back the way it was at some point. The Master's TARDIS never seemed to have this problem.
      • Some notable examples of police boxes that are still standing in the street are in Edinburgh, where a couple of police phone boxes have been converted into coffee kiosks. They seem to be pretty popular as well.
  • Get Smart used the Phone-Booth-as-an-elevator trick in its opening credits. Of course, the phone booth was behind several serious-looking and presumably locked doors, which made the disguise a bit unnecessary.
    • There was also an episode with a phone booth that was rigged to fill with water, drowning the person inside. (The door was locked from the outside while the water poured in.)
  • A Not the Nine O'Clock News sketch involves someone engaged in the anti-social habit of urinating in a phone box ... before revealing that the queue of people behind him have the same intent.
  • Ellery Queen: The Victim of the Week in "The Adventure of Auld Lang Syne" is murdered in a phone booth. Stabbed in the throat, he attempts to use the phone to leave a Dying Clue.

Music
  • The Superman connection is mentioned in The Spin Doctors' song "Jimmy Olson's Blues":
    "It's got me up the wall and through the roof,
    Lois and Clark in a telephone booth."

Newspaper Comics

Video Games
  • Escape the Phone Booth, a flash puzzle game where you wake trapped inside a phone booth. You have to try and find your way out with what few items you have on you or can find.
  • The Interactive Fiction game Pick Up The Phone Booth And Die, and its spinoff Pick Up The Phone Booth And Aisle.
    • The former has only two commands it will accept: "Pick up phone booth", which kills you, and "Push phone booth", which wins the game.
  • In The Lost Crown, Nigel has to use a phone booth to contact anyone outside Saxton, as he didn't bring his cell and the phone in his rented cottage is broken haunted.
  • In Mass Effect 3, The penultimate levels are set in London. Despite the fact that it's half-past the futurenote , there are plenty of the iconic red British Telecom phone boxes (see the page image if you are somehow unfamiliar with them) in the background detail... more, in fact, than you would see almost anywhere in the real London today.
  • In the Jaleco Arcade Game Psychic 5, going into a phone booth lets the player select between Espers.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • The entrance to Section 13 in Jackie Chan Adventures is through a phone booth that serves as an elevator, although it appears there is an easier way in through the stairs. For the most part it does work in concealing the location of the instillation.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, that's how they access to their lair.
  • An episode of Futurama reveals that phone booths start making a comeback in 3010 AD; Hermes Conrad is happy to learn this, as it means he no longer has to lug a cellphone around.
    • It is also important not to confuse a phone booth with a suicide booth.
  • Shoeshine Boy uses a phone booth to transform into Underdog. During the transformation, the booth suddenly explodes.

Real Life
  • Well, duh.
  • The Safe House, a spy-themed restaurant in Milwaukee, has a themed phone booth where guests can choose from a selection of background noises while placing a call, the better to deceive listeners espionage-style.


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